Charles Jenkins & The Zhivagos

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Charles Jenkins & The Zhivagos


Jenkins’ band The Zhivagos are joined throughout by enough guest artists to bash out a modern day Do They Know It’s Christmas at the drop of a hat – which we are thankfully spared. Instead, the desperate to stay warm crowd gathering rapidly in The Corner, enjoy the proven talent of the Ball’s wondrous line-up minus the smugness usually found at charity events. This year’s beneficiaries of tickets sold are Foodbank Victoria who distribute much needed grub to everyone from those in disaster affected areas to the homeless.


However, the thrill of helping provide some well needed funds to charity isn’t what’s on our minds when opening act, Ron Peno & The Superstitions take to the side stage with zero fanfare. Having the ex-Died Pretty front-man as a ‘warm-up’ act speaks volumes about the musical acts on offer tonight. This being the first of two sets Peno performs with his new band, the captivating singer takes his time in building up the mood and momentum for the night’s proceedings. By third song in, Death O’ Me, Ron – refreshed, following a recent Died Pretty reunion show – commands attention with a set of entirely new, yet somehow familiar tracks. Peno’s Ian Curtis dance is still a part of his live delivery; touches of the American Wild West shine in his songwriting (Train Whistle).


Over on the mainstage, Charles Jenkins is preparing to unleash his many guest artists, while indulging us with songs from his latest album, Walk This Ocean. What happens over the course of his first of two sets, is a wildly veering, rough round the edges blast of rock. When singers like Mick Thomas (Weddings, Parties, Anything) and Lisa Miller cosy up with Jenkins for tantalising duets, the arctic chills of Melbourne at night feel like a memory. Even the decorative cardboard snowflakes hanging from the ceiling seem in danger of melting at the sound of Thomas’s gruff and throaty punctuations. In equally fine fettle, Kat Spazzy (The Spazzys) brings some youthful energy to the stage, while Georgia Fields cuts through the wailing guitars proving she can work her magic in any situation. (It is those guitars in the end that dominate however, with no less than four maestros of the axe whooping it up later when the concert draws to an end.]


Having never seen one of Mark Seymour’s famed live performances for myself, I was triple-thrilled to see him at last join Jenkins and co. for punchy Hunters’ classic, Everything’s On Fire. Mark’s presence noticeably stirs up the crowd, so Jenkins chooses his moment to surprise us with an unrehearsed, but effective, cover of David Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging, backed by every one of tonight’s guests. The rabble-rousing glam-rock rendition was a hit, and only topped by the full lineup’s closing number, The Kinks’ Victoria – in the style of The Fall meets the Sex Pistols, or some such brutal marriage. The mess of artists filling the stage sharing mics and trying not to bump into one another, while showing great camaraderie, is a warming image to hold onto as the deafening chorus of Victoria throbs my ears on the long, chilly walk home. The freezing weather is a crappy yet renowned part of life here in Melbourne, we all know, but with events this good, it’s so worth chucking on the thermals and braving the snap to bask in Melbourne’s other claim to fame; it’s awesome musicians.


Loved: The whole event line-up doing Boys Keep Swinging.


Hated: Having to drink huge amounts of alcohol to forget about how cold it was.


Drank: Vodka, beer, bubbly. Oh, my head!